Administration Shows Early Ties To Health Industry
The administration's negotiations with the health industry date back to first weeks after President Obama's inauguration, according to newly released visitor logs that show numerous visits by health industry lobbyists and executives to the White House, the Associated Press/Boston Globe reports. Richard Umbdenstock, the president of the American Hospital Association, visited on Feb. 4 and Angela Braly, an executive at insurer WellPoint visited on Feb. 13.
Obama had campaigned on the promise to "hold lobbyists at arm's length and make his administration the most transparent ever." But so far, the Obama administration has refused to release visitor logs on the basis of a Bush administration policy. On Wednesday night, the AP reports, a list of visits was released, but it included only names and dates, not the visitors' titles or employers. In response to questions, Obama pointed out that most of the visitors had also been photographed by the news media while on the White House grounds. Obama also struck deals with several of the visiting executives in closed-door meetings over the last few weeks (Theimer, 7/23).
Drug makers agreed last month to help save $80 billion in health spending, a modest concession, "but it is too soon for drug makers to declare victory," the New York Times reports. The House leadership, however, appears poised to ratchet-up savings in drug spending by reversing a 2006 policy that would cost drug makers another $63 billion. In a press conference Wednesday night, "Obama seemed to agree" with the House Democrat's notion that drug companies could give up more, saying "We might be able to get $100 billion out of them" (Wilson, 7/22).
The administration has redirected its focus in health reform to the need to eliminate "inefficiencies and wasteful practices" in hopes of curbing high costs to individuals and a widening deficit, the New York Times reports separately. "If we fail to do more to move toward a high-value, low-cost health care system," said Peter Orszag, Obama's budget director, "we will be on an unsustainable fiscal path, no matter what else we do" (Shih, 7/22).
Wall Street Journal: On Thursday, Obama will take that message to the Cleveland Clinic, which he says is model for providing such high-value, low-cost care. "Despite the favorable attention from the White House, however, the multispecialty clinic model isn't easy to replicate widely. One issue is cultural: Most doctors tend to be fiercely independent" (Fuhrmans, 7/23).
Politico: Republicans, meanwhile, are split over their approach to the president. Last week, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said stopping Obama on health care would "break" his presidency, a remark Democrats have used to argue Republicans oppose reform for political reasons. Top Senate Republicans have distanced themselves from that stance, saying they want to "[get] health care right," not beat Obama (Raju, 7/23).